Without hope no one can live. Yet, hope can be cruel. Solomon reminds us that, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov 13:8). So much of our unhappiness is the result of thinking we are going to get something better than we end up with.
Yet no one will argue that disappointment and despair are better alternatives. A loss of hope can be self-fulfilling. Despair is like poison not only to our minds and hearts but to our bodies as well. All kinds of studies have shown the unhealthy effects of anger, anxiety, and hopelessness. Disillusionment without hope can cause minds that were once bright and optimistic to end up bitter, critical, cynical, and miserable.
On the other hand, there’s a time for despair. If hitting bottom brings us to our senses, then a loss of the false hope we’ve been chasing can be the beginning of something better.
Ironically, many of us have learned over the years that some of our best hopes can turn out to be some of our worst nightmares, just as some of our darkest nights can be the beginning of some of our brightest days.
So what is the difference? How can we face the darkness by doing more than lighting a match that will soon burn out?
In my last post I wrote about the fact that because the Bible is rooted in real times, places and witnesses, it gives us a basis for more than hope for hope’s sake.
If Jesus was not manipulating and exploiting our hope, if he really did break out of his burial wrappings, push away the stone, overcome the guards, and walk out of that dark, terrible grave then all of us have the choice to embrace a hope that, in the end, will not let us down.
Speaking of such history the Apostle Paul wrote, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom 15:4).
From the pages of those Scriptures, we need to hear over and over the good and bad times of God’s people– about Joseph, and Daniel, and Mary and Paul. We need to remind ourselves about the experiences of Ruth, and Esther, and Job. Together they can keep us from thinking that hard times reflect a breakdown in our relationship to God. On the contrary, real faith and hope don’t develop without what we see as trouble and disappointment (Rom 5:3-5).
In following Christ, some of us have found ourselves in a darkness we didn’t see coming. Instead of having our prayers quickly answered we’ve found our faith, our hope, and our love tested in ways we never expected.
But there is a reason for that. According to the Scriptures Paul referred to, God considers our faith and hope in him as being worth more than gold. (1Peter 1:3-8; Rom 8:24-25).
So, maybe where we see fear and pain, our Lord sees the possibility of something better than gold. Maybe in our darkness he sees an opportunity for us to put our trust and hope in Him– for his forgiveness, his wisdom, his presence, and for provisions that rest in events as real as his resurrection from the dead.
But now, what are you thinking? Have you too found that some of our best hopes can turn out to be some of our worst nightmares and that, when our hope is in the Lord, some of our darkest nights can eventually turn into our brightest days? Or do you think this kind of talk is just wishful thinking?